Atomic-scale images have shown that ants and some other insects have sharp and strong teeth. A related study was published in Science Daily.
The researchers used a focused ion microscope and found that these ant teeth are a homogeneous mixture of proteins and zinc. There are many zinc atoms, whole groups are attached to some amino acid units - zinc makes up about one-tenth of the entire mass of ant teeth.
“Yes, ants have teeth, anyone who has ever stepped on an ant hill can attest. These specialized structures, technically called "mandibular teeth" - they are attached outside of their mouth - are made of a material that tightly binds individual zinc atoms together, "the study said.
The research team calculated that because these biomaterials may be sharper, they allow animals to use 60% or less of the force that they would have to use if their teeth were similar in composition to, for example, human teeth.
Scientists note that some elements, such as zinc and manganese, make teeth harder, but it is not yet known how exactly the elements "harden" in insect bodies.
“We believe that when a canine hits something hard, these zinc cross-links can first break, absorbing energy so that the tooth itself does not collapse. We assume that the abundance of additional zinc is a ready supply for dental healing,”the researchers write.